Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

The Future is East, Time for Electoral Realism


We recently returned from a trip to S.E. Asia, mostly holiday, but meeting with some of my wife's clients too.

Smog, created by Indonesian farmers' crop burning joined the humid heat to hang like a blanket over Bangkok, our first stop. The difference to late September London was a shock. Less of a shock was driving on the left and familiar names like Boots the Chemist and Tesco. Tesco Lotus is the biggest supermarket operator in Thailand.

Our next destination, Kuala Lumpur, is impressive. Somehow they have managed to merge old and new creating a harmonious, largely green look. On a trip, there is usually something one has forgotten and we headed to the nearest shopping centre. The immaculately clean multi story mall had every kind of shop from IT to designer outlets. As someone who needs disabled toilet facilities, I was delighted to find every floor well provided. Indeed, there were more in that Mall than I saw during a recent ten-day tour of France.

We were told that "Cold Storage" had everything we needed. Cold Storage is a chain of grocery stores. Well that does not quite do it justice. Imagine your favourite Waitrose, add some Harrods and Fortnums and you are close. The chain, majority British owned, has stores throughout S.E. Asia and is spreading to China too. A cornucopia of produce, fresh, chilled and frozen greeted us, as it did in their Singapore stores. None of these countries are EU members or have an FTA. For over four years we have been told that those very conditions would lead to empty shelves - even hunger.

There is hunger. Hunger from business people for the UK to rejoin the world. For more UK goods and investment. We were struck by the fund of goodwill that exists towards the UK. Not just in business circles, but also from taxi drivers, waiters, people we talked to in shops and walking in the street. S E Asia has a population of 620 million, and whilst not all of it is developed, all of it is developing. It is just one of the many growth areas that will open up for us after Brexit.

Back in our corner of Eurasia, Germany teeters on the brink of recession. The ECB is again turning on the printing presses to support a weak EZ economy. The UK continues to defy the dire warnings of project fear with continued growth better than most in the EU. Ominously for the proponents of a United States of EU, Volkswagen have chosen Turkey as the site of their new factory. They considered under-utilised ones in the EU, as well as the attractions of Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia. The €1.2 billion investment is sorely needed as the EU struggles with manufacturing decline. Plainly, just in time and being in the single market was trumped, for VW, by other considerations.

Food and logistics have been in the news too. Giovanni Galatà, president and export sales manager of Op Orizzonte, a major Italian fruit growers' cooperative explained. "We're exporting, by sea to the United States, Canada, Brazil and Australia." They are just starting shipping to Taiwan too. "It is easier and cheaper to ship overseas than to convey by truck to Northern Italy and Northern European countries."

Chill Chain, a UK logistics firm specialising in chilled and frozen freight point out that 40% of lorries on UK roads are empty. They claim that intelligent cooperation will not only provide a stress free EU exit day, but that costs will reduce too.

Adding to the EU's worries, the USA, fed up with what it sees as the EU's unfair practices and unequal market access, threatens to impose duties of 25% on a range of foodstuffs and alcohol, scotch whiskey being one of them.

With so much underlining the correctness of our decision to leave the EU, we returned to find democrats fighting like rats in a sack. Only those seeking to overturn democracy can win.

In my view, we are faced with a decision, not just about leaving the EU, but whether we are a democracy. Our democracy has always depended on losers consent. Those who have refused to accept the result of the 2016 referendum have undermined democracy. If democrats lose the General Election, the damage may be fatal.

Those who wish to overthrow democracy are a curious coalition of revolutionaries and the establishment. Communist Momentum controls the Labour Party. They are supported by the SNP, a socialist party whose hatred of England would lead them to support Satan, if he existed and could wreck the UK. Plaid Cymru and the Greens sniff under Swinson's table in the desperate hope of a few scraps in return for supporting the Lib Dems attempt to overturn democracy. There seems little doubt that the Lib Dems would back labour in a hung parliament. Lawyers, seemingly able to access a bottomless money pit and big business pressure groups complete the cabal. Parliamentary betrayal found a willing accomplice in a partisan speaker. Just as appalling is the action of the Supreme Court who forsook our constitution in pursuit of a political dogma.

I had hoped that Johnson had a clever plan; that the Queen would intervene or somehow democracy would be respected. Alas, we are where we are. The fact that the parliamentary majority who fought Brexit to a standstill, did so by being elected on a downright lie, no longer matters. Considering the amount of sabotage and chicanery he had to confront, Boris Johnson's deal is better than anyone could have dreamt possible. It is not perfect, but under the circumstances it's as perfect as possible and serves the purpose of getting us out. What matters is the future. Seizing the opportunity to get out and negotiate an FTA or, if impossible, leave on WTO terms at the end of December 2020.

Democrats supporting Johnson's pragmatic deal are few. The Conservative party is now committed to Leave. Cleansed of its most recalcitrant anti democrats, it is hugely different from the one May led to humiliating victory. The SDP, small and with no hope of MPs, supports democracy. Labour leave and a handful of Labour MPs who refused to put party before country do too.

Winning the Euro elections was a triumph, the triumph of a single-issue focus. The name chosen by Farage for the party emphasised that single issue. Attacking Johnson's deal for not being WTO was fair comment. Pretending that the Political Declaration was anything more than a discussion map was not. The problem of attacking the deal and demanding only a WTO exit is the lack of a plan or any ability to deliver the demand.

Those of us who want a WTO clean break pin our hopes on a strong Tory government. By strong, I mean with a large enough majority to allow the ERG leverage that makes sure we exit in good order. Good order is surely either a proper Free Trade Agreement or WTO

Grasp the opportunity a strong majority will provide. Free from the EU the UK will blossom and, as Angela Merkel fears, naturally diverge from the EU.

I think we do need a political realignment. New parties committed to democracy and a free market system. However, this is not the time. If we fail to elect a Tory government in December, we will become a state of a political union, and democracy, as we know it, will be dead. 

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Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
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